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A Comic Geek Looks at 60


OSJ
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Well, I hope this draws some comments as it is pretty apparent that many of us do love us some funny books. Especially the kind with athletic folk in bizarre attire kicking ass on the bad guys... I've been at this awhile now, the first comics that I can remember reading were owned by an older kid down the street, there were a couple of Justice Leagues (I recall the first JLA/JSA team-up, and I've been a JSA fan ever since), an issue featuring Kanjar Ro, whom I liked because he was a little guy getting the upper hand on the super heroes who were obviously a lot bigger and stronger), a couple of issues of Mystery in Space with Adam Strange that I thought was the coolest thing imaginable and a lone issue of either Daredevil or Spider-Man featuring both characters. Don't remember much about it except that Daredevil had that ridiculous yellow costume. The first comic I bought was Strange Tales 140, which I picked up because this Dormammu dude was the coolest thing I'd ever seen, cooler than Dr. Strange even... So yeah, that makes it over fifty years as a reader and almost fifty years as a paying fan, so my love affair with the graphic novels is pretty deep. 

That brings us up to today, all the stuff that I screamed about and demanded as a fan has come about. We have diversity among characters to the point that people don't snicker and refer to Sam Wilson as "Captain Token". We have strong female characters with even Power Girl making a statement about why she shows off her boobies. We have a marketplace where guys like my pal Kurt Busiek can create something rare and fine like Astro City and have it be a success. A marketplace where books like Starman and Sandman Mystery Theatre can have long, successful runs. As a kid in the 1970s if you had told me about what Mike Mignola, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, and Caitlin R. Kiernan would accomplish in the medium I wouldn't have believed you. Yeah, comics finally became everything that we fans decades ago dreamed of as possibilities, sure, there's still lots of misogynistic, boneheaded bullshit being published, but at least there are people around now who will call such stuff out for it is and won't accept "that's just what the marketplace wants" as an answer.

So in most ways, comics have never been better positioned to be truly great, so why am I bored to tears with the current product as a whole? I haven't given up on the field, no, not at all, in fact, I probably buy more than I did ten years ago. However, most of my purchases are for stuff that came out five to fifteen years ago. There's current stuff I'll look at and make a mental note to get the trade, but when the trade comes out, I look again and say "nah", maybe the next one. I can say part of it is the infernal re-boots, Back in the Silver Age writers were stuck with a world they'd never made and couldn't just change at the drop of a hat because it didn't suit them. They had move the pieces around on the board that had been set up and this limitation led to some real creative work being done. What started as DC's "Imaginary Stories" grew up to be Marvel's "Ultimates". But the rank and file had to find ways to tell stories within the existing framework and that led to a lot of really well thought-out concepts. 

Have I just finally burned out on the field? God knows that I'm not the target market and haven't been for some time, but there's always been a few things going on to keep my interest up. Now when I look at previews the main thing I'm checking out is what's coming in the Masterworks series or in trades from other publishers. Economics also plays a part, of course. I can't get too thrilled about laying out $3.99 for a regular issue of something that's going to take a six-issue arc to tell a story ($23.94) and be released as a trade for $19.95 that I can get for 40% off at In-Stock Trades. (I have to wonder how a market like that sustains itself, are fans really that impatient (stupid)?) Sure, not everything gets collected in hardcover or trade format, but by and large most of the stuff that I like does, (even the oddball shit like BPRD, which I'm fanatical about). So is this just a phase of ennui on my part, or is the industry as a whole pretty flat right now? Thoughts? 

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Embarassment of riches, basically. Too much good stuff competing for your attention much of which is built on similar foundations. And stuff that was a cool rare novelty before isn't anymore so with the cost being so much higher, the diminishing returns on similar concepts and delivery can really take you out of it.

 

I go through phases of being pumped for everything and being pretty meh with high points but fatigue can kick in even with good stuff.

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I think you're on to something there with both embarrassment of riches and lack of novelty to novelty, two very different things. A big part of it is what I bang on about in the wrestling and film/tv/writing threads (well, everything creative, basically); LESS IS MORE, if everything is special than nothing is special. I remember when a crossover was a big deal, I remember when the annual team-up of the JLA/JSA was a big deal, until it started to become commonplace that whenever you needed to pop some buys on The Flash, you would have Jay Garrick stroll in for a guest spot. It took DC a while to get hip to the idea that some of the JSA characters were pretty compelling on their own and deserved to be revived full-time (Dr. Fate, and The Spectre in particular once you didn't have the ridiculous Comics Code to kowtow to. Others needed to be re-imagined for the present (Starman, Sandman, Mr. Terrific, Hourman), but once that was done, there certainly wasn't anything special about the annual team-up.

I think that one thing that's been the hardest for me to digest is the total disregard for some core concepts that I'd come to rely on as a reader. Let's take The Avengers. I'm a big Avengers guy, in my original collection I went all the way back to issue #8 and quit somewhere in the 120s. That's been replaced and improved on via Masterworks. Anyway, after the initial run of 1-14 (forgive me if I'm off a number or two, it's been a long-ass time) when you had the first full line-up change (I'm not counting Hulk's temper tantrum and departure nor the addition of Cap as "major" line-up changes.) Anyway, you went from a ridiculously over-powered team, (when Giant-Man is an after thought, your big guns are simply too big), to a team that you were seriously worried about how they would match up with most menaces. From that point on, with a few short runs that were exceptions to the rule, the Avengers basically became the place to showcase the second-tier characters, frequently with having one of the originals to provide leadership. What I never expected and sure as hell didn't want to see were Spider-man and Wolverine as Avengers. Doesn't each guy already have like three or four books? Do we really need to see them in Avengers too? Leaving aside the fact that neither is really at heart a "team player" (Wolverine is forced to be by circumstances, but the character is pretty well defined as a loner by choice). I have never picked up the Avengers in any iteration because I wanted to see more Thor, Iron Man, or Cap; perfectly okay if one of them was involved for a short stint, but I bought the mag(s) to see Hank Pym, Hawkeye, the Vision, Black Widow,  Scarlet Witch, Wasp, Black Knight, Warbird, Black Panther, etc. 

Sure, I can understand the thinking behind putting you biggest stars into The Avengers, but you do so at the peril of over-saturating the market ("special" appearances by Wolverine aren't really all that special if he's appearing in 25% of your titles anyway). More importantly, you crap all over the concept of what made the book interesting in the first place. I'd rather read an Avengers story where you have to have part of your menace be underwater so Stingray has something to do then get another book full of Spidey and Wolverine making with the funny as they kick ass. 

Another problem (and It's my problem as a reader, not necessarily the publisher's problem). I'm extremely character-based in my fandom. Give me a character that I like and I'm all in. I mean to the extent that I'll try and have all of their appearances if realistic. Obviously, this means I gravitate to the second-tier characters where such a collection is at least possible. Some real-life examples include Moon Knight, Dr. Fate, The Spectre, and The Blazing Skull (talk about an under-utilized character!) In the cases of the two that have undergone major changes, the story-line and logic setting up the character change was well done and obviously not done just as a quick pop. 

Yeah, I'm sure something will catch my interest again soon, just not sure what it will be... A Blazing Skull solo book? That would do it...

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Spider-man as an Avenger is a terrible idea. There's a reason the idea was teased but they never went through with it.

Wolverine as an Avenger is worse. There's a reason nobody ever even suggested the idea.

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Giving the Avengers credit, there have been a lot of successful runs that mostly featured B-characters and minimal involvement from the iconic characters (Thor, Cap, Iron Man).  Historically, Justice League has to be built around the big guns to work.  When they've tried to built the book around lesser-known characters, it hasn't worked creatively or commercially (Justice League Detroit, James Robinson's not-fondly remembered run using Supergirl, Dick Grayson, Donna Troy. etc.)/

Honestly, I've never been too enthused about JL or Avengers for that reason: it's hard to do much character development when half the roster has their own books and the writer is handcuffed by having to maintain the status quo of so many characters.  Again, Avengers has done better in that regard than JL.  There are an awful lot of good Avengers storylines built around Hank Pym and the Wasp.  I dunno that Martian Manhunter has even been half as interesting.

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There was, to me, two things that made putting Spidey and Wolverine in the Avengers different and wrong compared to DC having its biggest stars in the Justice League. The first is obvious, tradition. DC almost always has the Trinity in the League, or at least part of it. 

The other reason is more in universe. In DC comics, the heaviest hitters/best heroes are, by and large, also the biggest names. Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and GL, etc... In Marvel, Spider-Man and Wolverine are the biggest stars, but in universe, they are lower level. Cap, Thor and Iron Man are the in universe top notch guys. Putting Peter and Logan in thus comes across only as a sales stunt.

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On 7/24/2017 at 3:01 PM, Brian Fowler said:

The other reason is more in universe. In DC comics, the heaviest hitters/best heroes are, by and large, also the biggest names. Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and GL, etc... In Marvel, Spider-Man and Wolverine are the biggest stars, but in universe, they are lower level. Cap, Thor and Iron Man are the in universe top notch guys. Putting Peter and Logan in thus comes across only as a sales stunt.

That doesn't really make much sense considering all of the smaller in universe characters who have also been Avengers. I mean its not like Logan or Peter were leading. Also considering Logan's relationships with people like Steve, Carol, Natasha, and various other former Avengers it sort of makes sense that he wouldn't mind or even welcome teaming with some of them. That said, I don't disagree that them involved comes across as more of a sales stunt. I only really started reading comics 5-6 years ago and was surprised even then when I learned the two were Avengers at one point. That just felt wrong.

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On 7/24/2017 at 2:01 PM, Ryan said:

Now is the time for the OSJ comic.

Well, it's not like I haven't written scripts before... Just give me the Blazing Skull in a 12-issue mini-series. I will blow some minds. 

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Fowler pretty much nailed it. DC has a Trinity and a Big Four which overlap. The Big Four rather unceremoniously dumps Wonder Woman out of the mix for no apparent reason, leaving Supes, Bats, Flash, & GL. Also for many, many years these were the bread n' butter characters of the whole company. For Marvel to have a similar Big Four, they had to create the Squadron Supreme. Their top sales drawing characters were just nowhere near the Big Four power-wise. We may be seeing somewhat of a sea-change driven by the film franchise; let's face it, according to the films Iron Man is the Big 1, no one else is even close. Probably doesn't hurt that the character is played by one of the finest actors of his generation, but there ya go... 

Anyway, sticking loner characters into a team just reeks of a cheap sales gimmick. Spidey and Wolverine are probably the two worst, I'm not very fond of Hulk in the film version of the Avengers, (ya know, there was a reason they let him storm off in issue #2); I also wasn't be fond of Moon Knight as an Avenger, but it was tolerable and sort of made sense in the character's continuity.

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37 minutes ago, OSJ said:

Well, it's not like I haven't written scripts before... Just give me the Blazing Skull in a 12-issue mini-series. I will blow some minds. 

Can you do my dream of an Aquaman finny friends book? I want Topo as a cephalopod killing machine like the Punisher toting multiple firearms with his eight arms. Tusky can be the walrus who kicks ass and takes names. Ark the Sea Lion can be the team leader. I think this book could conservatively be expected to sell at least 60 million copies (And even more digitally).

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